News reporters know about the risks of working in countries at war. But the recent death or disappearance of three individuals in Turkey, Bulgaria and Mexico showed the growing dangers to people targeted for their reporting.
Turkish officials are searching for Jamal Khashoggi, who wrote commentaries for The Washington Post newspaper. He has not been seen since he entered Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic office in Istanbul last week.
Some believe that he might have been killed there because he had written critically of the Saudi government. The government says the claim is “baseless.”
Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documents he needed to get married. He had lived in the United States and was trying to become a U.S. citizen. His fiancée has called on President Donald Trump to help find him.
Separately, Bulgarian national radio reported an arrest Tuesday in the death of television broadcaster Viktoria Marinova. In her reporting, she accused a Bulgarian building company of misusing money provided by the European Union. Bulgarian police say the murder does not appear to be linked to her reporting.
In Mexico this past week, journalist and activist Sergio Martinez Gonzalez was shot and killed as he ate with his wife. Two people on a motorcycle are the suspected killers.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that 43 journalists have been killed in 2018. There were 46 deaths for all of 2017. The numbers are not unusual. More than 73 journalists were killed in 2015.
What is different is the way they are being killed. At least 27 journalists have been individually targeted so far this year. Eight lost their lives in violent conflicts.
The CPJ said of all the media workers killed since 1992, 848 were individually killed and 1,322 were lost in war or other violence.
Just as shocking is the spread of killings into Europe. In addition to Marinova’s death in Bulgaria, Jan Kuciak was found shot to death in Slovakia after investigating tax corruption among people close to the government. In Malta, investigative reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed after reporting on government corruption for her blog.
“There are crooks everywhere you look now,” she wrote right before her death.
The killing of five employees The Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland by a gunman in June showed the threat exists in the United States. In addition, the United Nations is seeking the release of two jailed Reuters news agency reporters in Myanmar. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo had been investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys.
Bruce Shapiro is with Columbia University in New York City. He said, “It’s safe to say there is a pervasive worldwide threat directed to journalists. And I think that’s very dangerous.” He added that the European cases appear to show the power of a small group of people involved in illegal activities. They are able to act across borders without fear of police.
Media critics are careful not to place blame on President Trump. But they say his critical comments, calling journalists “enemy of the people,” have added to the hostile environment.
Journalists who may not feel in physical danger can be the target of threats online.
Experts say journalism organizations have recognized the threat and are trying to protect reporters.
Bruce Shapiro said, "I think that people who stand for democratic values are beginning to understand that scapegoating journalists and scapegoating the media is a step toward authoritarianism.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.
David Bauder reported this story for the Associated Press. Susan Shand adapted his story for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
fiancée – n. a woman who expects to get married
crook – n. a thief
blog – n. a website that contains someone’s personal comments
pervasive – adj. spreading widely throughout an area or a group of people.
online – adj. connected to a system, especially a computer or telecommunications system
scapegoat – n. an innocent person who is blamed for a bad act
authoritarianism – n. an oppressive government without democracy